Monday, February 13, 2006

I'm not happy, John

According to a report on a study completed at Deakin University, the residents of my local area are the unhappiest in Australia. It is difficult to comment on the study without looking at it in more detail but I thought it was a clever move by Federal MP Antony Albanese to use the finding as a springboard to comment on the issues that he has identified as having the most impact on the residents of Grayndler. What I find a bit confusing is how the definition of "happiness" and its measurement can be considered to be something that can be objectively understood and measured. Can happiness be separated from the social and political context and attached to individuals as merely an attribute? I don't wish to speak on behalf of all other residents in the Inner West, but my happiness is not simply a reflection of my individual circumstances. It is also connected to how I perceive and feel about the country I'm living in, and what capacity there is for alternatives. I wonder if the researchers have confused dissatisfaction for unhappiness.
I am not particularly happy with the state of affairs in Australia and haven't been for a while. I am not happy with John Howard and his cronies. I'm not even happy about this study. I guess this makes me, along with the rest of us Innerwestians one miserable bunch of Aussies.

On the PhD front, I had an inspiring meeting with all the members of my supervisory panel last Thursday. I received some very helpful feedback about my conceptual engagement with the topic to date as well as assistance with the recruitment process. My supervisors think I might be a bit optimistic in terms of my aim to have the organisations recruited and ready to go by the end of March. I think they might be right. I seem to be making incremental progress but it is slowed by regular absences, message machines and meetings with the staff I've made contact with. Today I had a few of those...

My supervisors have suggested I start working on something substantial like a chapter (yikes) in the 'in between' times while working on the recruitment. After a bit of discussion we agreed that I could start developing the chapter on the cultural-historical dimension of 'the office' that I proposed in my Confirmation of Candidature and which connects to the research on early communication technologies that I conducted in Sweden. I'm pretty excited about this but also don't really know where to start. I guess anywhere is OK...


Glen Fuller said...

hey i thought your title said panel beating!! talk about having things on yer brain..!

a good way into your chapter on the 'office' would be two paragraphs or so on the tv sitcom 'the office'. round up all the (online) newspaper articles on the show (online is easier), and maybe any critical scholarly work that engages with it. find out why people think the show is funny (either critics or audience or scholars). and then engage with this purported logic of humour, because you know what they say about humour containing 'truths'. well i think 'the office' contains some truths about working in that sort of environment and the nature of the 'office' as a socio-technical space. then you could extend it to other representations of the office or offie-based engagements with technology. like the funny scene from _the castle_ where the 'cheap' lawyer gets angry at the photocopier because it spits out an error message he doesn't understand. you can jump into other areas then, discussing the gendered distribution of labour (who does what, photocopying is a 'womans' job) and other literature like that ethnomethodological stuf on xerox (i think it was!?!?!) very famous anyway.

my advice: start with _the office_, capture some sense of the show's "truths", trace some sort of minor genealogy of media representations of the office in popular culture, use that as a segue into your lit review on previous work on 'the office'. there are many films etc on 'the ofice' knowing which ones to select would be the hardest task!!! (having an assortment of critical engagements with well known texts would also be useful if you ever have to give a lecture on the subject!!)

btw, it sounds v. exciting!!! i wouldn't bother writing such long comments otherwise!!!

Ms M said...

Thanks for your suggestions Glen. I was definitely thinking of touching on representations of 'the office' in popular culture - as you say, how to choose them is tricky since in some ways 'the office' was a dominant background/container/metaphor/studio in the foundational era of Hollywood cinema. But 'the office' also figures dominantly in many advertisements for new technology dating back to the early 1900's. I have a great little film/ad that I downloaded of Ericsson's business dictation machine (the phonograph). I think I'd like to contextualise it a bit in terms of looking at what might have been the experience in Australia too rather than assume the global context. Lucy Suchman's "Office procedure as practical action: models of work and system design" was the famous Xerox study I think. Excellent study too.